By STEVE MASCORD
HE can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 45 seconds, once addressed his team-mates on how Pythagorus Theorum affects every day life and plays saxophone, piano, guitar and violin.
Leeds’ 105kg Ryan Hall may or may not be the best winger in the world – his team-mates call him ‘WBW’ anyway – but half an hour in his presence has convinced A-List he is the most interesting player in either the NRL or Super League today.
Hall, 27, is known to most casual observers as a tank of a man who regularly scores against Australia and New Zealand and who was controversially denied what would have been a match-winning touchdown at AAMI Park during last year’s Four Nations.
But for all his peroxide-headed heroics on the field, the Leeds local is a singularly distinctive character off it – a prodigy who would be studying pure mathematics at university if he wasn’t terrorising his opposite number each weekend as a pro rugby league player.
We sat down with Ryan on Friday morning at the Virgin Active gym in Kirkstall after a recovery session to find out what makes WBW tick.
EARLY YEARS: “I was a footballer. All my core mates at school played football (soccer). I play from seven up until about 11. At that age, football was on Sundays and I found out rugby (league) is on Saturdays. I did both up until 14 and then football changed. I was a goalie. I was a small guy, I didn’t grow until quite late on. I realised I were miles better at rugby than I were at football. I switched back to rugby, I was playing amateur, no rep games or anything. I played for fun. When I got to 17s and 18s, I used to play first grade as well – open age. Our 18s team trained twice, the open age team trained twice, so I trained four times a week and played on a Saturday and a Sunday. I did a lot more rugby then than I do now – it’s quite funny. In comparison to other players, I did get spotted quite late – 17 or 18, playing down at Oulton. I fullback … not much of a passer.”
PYTHAGORUS THEORUM: “At a pre-season camp, Brian (McDermott, coach), got everybody to stand up and address the team. He likes to get you out of your comfort zone. Some of the lads talked about their lives growing up in rugby. I don’t get much of an opportunity to hold an audience. I thought I’d prove to the lads Pythagorus Theorum, using shapes and all that, is real, and where it comes from. That’s basically it. If you could see matrix, you’d see how it works. You’d see the trees breathing, you’d see equations going through. It does affect everything.”
MUSICAL LAD: “All through school, my mum encouraged me to do something different, to add another string to my bow – so to speak. I played violin in year two, junior school, and I gave that up and did saxophone. Technically (it’s my best), although I haven’t played it in a while. Through school … music’s quite transferable. If you can play saxophone, you can read music, you can play other instruments. I was in all the orchestras at school, I was in all the productions. I played in the bands at school and then we went touring. Every year the band would go to Paris, London, nice places like Amsterdam …. I’ve got a guitar. I didn’t play any at school but I thought ‘it’s more sociable. You sit around with people, it’s better to have a guitar than a saxophone’. I can play songs now, I’m not very intricate with it but I can play along with some chords. It’s a bit of an escape for me. People like watching TV – I like doing that.”
@BoringRyanHall TWITTER ACCOUNT: The parody account says things like “Brett Delaney just called me bro – which is very strange because he’s not my brother’. “I’ve got a couple of candidates but it keeps taking right turns,” Ryan says. “I think I’ve got it, and then it throws me. I quite enjoy it, so I’m not too bothered about getting to the bottom of it. I think the fans enjoy it too.”
GOING TO THE NRL: “I’ve never said ‘no’ to it directly but I’ve never had a full opportunity to do it. I’ve always been in a long-term contract at Leeds. Gary must have been quite smart, keeping me tied down. At the end of the last series, the Four Nations, I said I would like to come over if circumstances were different. If Gary was willing to let go and I was going to a good club, I’d think about it seriously. Here and there (there are whispers) but it goes away from me because it’s a back-room chat. I might regret that in my later life but I’m playing at such a good club in Leeds.”
WORLD’S BEST WINGER: “The boys say it when they’re taking the mick a little bit. It was started by the commentators at Sky, after the 2012 World Club Challenge. It’s nice from pundits to say that sort of thing but it gives people a bit of ammo to have a go at you. It also sets you up for a bit of a fall. At some time, I’m not going to be the best in the world and then they’ll be, like, ‘what’s happened to him?’.”
THAT TRY IN MELBOURNE: “I thought it was a try, speaking honestly. A lot of people said ‘why didn’t you celebrate?’. I couldn’t see the ball. I was diving over GI and just blindly taking a swipe at it. I felt contact with it. But I didn’t know if ball were in air, and I knocked it dead for a 20 metre restart, or I got it down. I didn’t want to start carrying on if I’d knocked it dead. When it got referred upstairs, I thought ‘we’ve got a chance here’ and when there were images showing me touching it on the floor, I thought ‘it’s a try’. I’ve never beaten the Aussies and I’ve been playing them since 2009. I thought that was our chance and it was in their back garden as well.”
THE HAIR: “The first time I did it, it was (charity) Sport Relief and everyone had to do their hair red. You bleach it so the red will take better. It went blond first and then you put the red on top of it. All the lads hated it, they’re all vain – ‘not gonna pull with this hair cut’ so they all got rid of it as soon as they could. But I liked it. I like being different. I kept it. It also ran alongside my girlfriend being pregnant for the first time. I kept it all the time she was pregnant because I thought once I was a dad, I’d have to be a responsible adult. Then I actually quite liked it, I enjoyed looking at the videos of me playing with it, so I kept doing it sporadically throughout the year. I’ll do it again this year, don’t know when.”
RUBIK’S CUBE: “Forty-five seconds is my best. I did it on Soccer AM, the TV show, in just over a minute. That’s maths. You can solve it writing it down on a piece of paper. In fact I went back to my old secondary school and the head of maths is still there from when I was there. He asked me to come in and do some little chats because it’s hard to get people to concentrate on maths at times. If they get someone with a bit of a profile to go in, it makes a difference. So I went in and I wrote it down with the Rubik’s Cube for the classes, to show it’s mathematical, it can be done.”
Filed for RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK